Fresh Hope For Child Rights Act In Enugu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Fresh Hope For Child Rights Act In Enugu

Posted: Aug 7, 2015 at 5:23 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Emmanuel Nzomiwu –  ENUGU

 

The failure of the immediate past administration in Enugu state to assent to the Child Rights Act passed by the State House of Assembly reverberated last Monday when the Speaker of the Enugu State Children’s Parliament, Miss Maduko Winifred called on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to domesticate the child rights act passed by the federal government in 2002.

On September, 20, 2007, about four months after Chime assumed office, the then Assistant Country Representative of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Mrs Pelucy Ntarbirweki led a delegation from the Enugu Field Office to the Governor to plead for the domesticate the bill, to enable the international agency have a legal framework for their projects for children in Enugu State.

Ntarbirweki had told the Governor that there were challenges in the State especially in the areas of immunization of children and HIV/AIDS, in which Enugu ranked highest in the South-East zone.

She disclosed that UNICEF would soon complete the ongoing phase of its programmes in Enugu at that time, pointing out that the domestication of the legal framework for children would help them plan for the next phase.

Nevertheless, the pleas did not move the governor who was said to have opposed the Child Rights Acts as far back as when he was Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the administration of his predecessor, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani.

Chime maintained that the Child Rights Act was a re-enactment of the Nigerian constitution which made provision for the protection of the rights of the child.

“The child is a person. You don’t start making new laws for children and there is nothing new in the Child Rights Act” Chime had told the UNICEF delegation.

The Governor particularly faulted the bill especially its provision that raised the legal age of children from 7 to 18 years since according to him, somebody who is eighteen years old is no longer a kid.

Chime said that the bill was unacceptable to him because the moment that you give a child immunity, he would start abusing it adding that such immunity would definitely give them the opportunity to commit crime and get away with it.

However, last Monday, the Speaker of the Enugu State Children’s Parliament, represented the request before Governor Ugwuanyi in a communiqué she read after a plenary session held with the governor at the Government House Enugu.

The Communiqué noted that passage of the bill in the state was needed considering the plight of Enugu State Children who face incessant and varying degrees of abuse and neglect.

Miss Winifred expressed dissatisfaction that Enugu State was currently the only state in the Southern Region of Nigeria that has yet to pass the bill into law.

The parliament called for immediate set-up, training and empowerment of the state’s Child Rights Implementation Committee to ensure the speedy and efficient implementation of the bill following its passage and signing into law.

Responding, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi assured the State Children’s Parliament of his administration’s readiness to liaise with the relevant legal authorities in the state for the domestication and enactment of the Child Rights Act in the state.

The Governor noted that the state government took the responsibility of protection and development of full potentials of children very seriously, adding that the state government had pioneered many efforts to ensure that children in the state enjoyed in full, the rights, privileges and the protection that they deserved.

According to the Governor, the state’s free education programme for children up to junior secondary school level was very much on course and yielding the desired results.

“We are sustaining and strengthening the much acclaimed Free Maternal and Child Health Care programme which he said has remained a remarkable success story that has continued to earn the state plaudits from relevant local and international organizations.”

He also added that the state government was strengthening its partnerships and collaborations with UNICEF and similar agencies on various aspects of child education, health and general welfare.

“Through the State Ministry of Gender Affairs, we have also virtually stamped out child trafficking in Enugu State while making significant progress in the war against other forms of child abuse” Ugwuanyi said.

Among the basic provisions of the Act is that a “child retains the right to survival and development and to a name and registration at birth and shall be given such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being.”

The Act further provides for freedom from discrimination on the grounds of belonging to a particular community or ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion, the circumstances of birth, disability, deprivation or political opinion and it states that dignity of the child shall be respected always.

It further provides that no Nigerian child should be subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse or neglect, maltreatment, torture, inhuman or degrading punishment, attacks on their honour and reputation.

According to the Act, every Nigerian child is entitled to rest, leisure and enjoyment of the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health.

It provides that every government in Nigeria shall strive to reduce the infant mortality rate, provide medical and healthcare, adequate nutrition and safe drinking water, hygienic and sanitized environments, combat diseases and malnutrition and support and mobilize through local and community resources, the development of primary healthcare for children among numerous other provisions.